What I'm reading ed. 100131

If you haven’t read the State of the Union and the Obama-GOP Q&A, go ahead and read them now.  Otherwise, here’s the news of the past two weeks.  As usual, highlights are in red.




  • Political corruption or political gratitude? Or just politics? (Rauch)

    Consider Rep. Patricia Porker, a member of the Ways and Means Committee. She is running for re-election.

    Consider, next, Marvin Moneybags. He is a wealthy individual with interests before Ways and Means.

    Now consider two scenarios.

    1) Porker calls up Moneybags and says, “Say, Marvin. I need about $300,000 to run campaign ads, but I’m not allowed to take donations that big. I know you’d hate to see anything happen to those tax credits I’ve helped you with. Just a thought: Go spend $300,000 on ads supporting my candidacy. You won’t regret it.”

    2) Moneybags is a friend and an enthusiastic supporter of Porker’s. Acting on his own, without consulting Porker, he spends $300,000 on “Vote for Porker!” ads.

    Why is Scenario 1 illegal and Scenario 2 legal?



  • Obama, Year 1 (TNR)

    A Democratic politician recently told me that the best way to get Obama to do what you want is to tell him that it’s the unpopular, difficult, but responsible thing.

  • Independents, fewer than you think.
  • GOP: “These are not the fiscal conservatives you are looking for” *waves hand in front of face* (Bartlett)



  • Mankiw on inflation worries.

    IS galloping inflation around the corner? Without doubt, the United States is exhibiting some of the classic precursors to out-of-control inflation. But a deeper look suggests that the story is not so simple.

  • Greg Mankiw on the Bank Tax

    In general, I am skeptical of narrow-based taxes, as they feed a particularly nasty kind of politics, where the majority gangs up on a minority. And I am turned off by the populist rhetoric coming from the administration, which suggests the issue pits Wall Street fat cats against ordinary Americans. Nonetheless, on the economic merits, there may be a case for the bank tax.

  • Does Wall St need morality? (MoJo)

    Sometimes, the financial companies (and other corporations) say that it is not up to them to make the decisions about what is right and wrong. It is up to government. So long as the government hasn’t banned the activity, a bank has every obligation to its shareholders to provide financial support for any activity from which it can obtain a good return.

    But consider, too, that the business community spends large amounts of money trying to create legislation that allows it to engage in nefarious practices.

  • Building a better stimulus
  • The not free-market defenders.

    In the years leading up to the crisis, the proliferation of fine print, complex products, and hidden costs and dangers – and the push against government regulations over them – exemplified the larger pattern. While touting complexity as a form of innovation and railing against every attempt at government interference, supposedly pro-market forces used that complexity to clog the gears of free market machinery and to reduce competition and maximize profit.

  • Zombie Economics: Ideas that just won’t go away. (bookdraft) (blog)

    In the 21st century, economics should focus:

    * More on realism, less on rigor
    * More on equity, less on efficiency
    * More on humility, less on hubris

  • Interview w/ Bruce Katz, Director of Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program
  • Modern macroeconomics is on the Wrong Track: Problems and potential areas of improvement


  • A new article on an old news story: the Guantamo suicides

    Late in the evening on June 9 that year, three prisoners at Guantánamo died suddenly and violently. Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, from Yemen, was thirty-seven. Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, from Saudi Arabia, was thirty. Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, also from Saudi Arabia, was twenty-two, and had been imprisoned at Guantánamo since he was captured at the age of seventeen. None of the men had been charged with a crime, though all three had been engaged in hunger strikes to protest the conditions of their imprisonment.

    According to the NCIS, each prisoner had fashioned a noose from torn sheets and T-shirts and tied it to the top of his cell’s eight-foot-high steel-mesh wall. Each prisoner was able somehow to bind his own hands, and, in at least one case, his own feet, then stuff more rags deep down into his own throat. We are then asked to believe that each prisoner, even as he was choking on those rags, climbed up on his washbasin, slipped his head through the noose, tightened it, and leapt from the washbasin to hang until he asphyxiated. The NCIS report also proposes that the three prisoners, who were held in non-adjoining cells, carried out each of these actions almost simultaneously.

  • Supreme Court: Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission Roundup
    • The actual opinion
    • NPR1

      TOTENBERG: It means that as long as they [unions and corporations] do it independently – and in the modern era, all you have to do is copy pretty much what the candidate is doing and follow it. As long as they do it independently, they can spend whatever they want.

    • SCOTUSBlog
    • NPR2
    • Glenn Greenwald
  • Dungeons and Dragons: harmless nerdy past time? Or reason for recidivism?

    Dungeons & Dragons could “foster an inmate’s obsession with escaping from the real-life correctional environment, fostering hostility, violence and escape behavior,” prison officials said in court. That could make it more difficult to rehabilitate prisoners and could endanger public safety, they said.


  • What is a Neglected Tropical Disease? Well, it’s a good thing you asked…

    Most people in richer countries equate tropical disease with the big three—HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria—and funding agencies allocate aid accordingly. Yet a group of conditions known collectively as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) has an even more widespread impact. They may not often kill, but they debilitate by causing severe anemia, malnutrition, delays in intellectual and cognitive development, and blindness. They can lead to horrific limb and genital disfigurement and skin deformities and increase the risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS and suffering complications during pregnancy.

  • Haiti Logistics
  • What does China censor?


  • Martin Luther King’s Last Speech:
  • Life at the laundromat (nyt)
  • The school lunch a day project
  • Charity giving infographic
  • Study: Not all kids are computer whizzes (NPR)
  • Interview w/ Sec. of Education Arne Duncan (Nat’l Journal)
  • We get so caught up on the problems of the world that sometimes we forget that people are out there working on them: Living Proof Project (Gates Foundation)
  • Wealth Inequality in the US


  • Science in American Society (Mooney)

    For instance, just 13 percent of the public now claims to follow science and technology news “very closely,” and this number has been on a downward trend for the past decade, ending with the current low. So while Americans may profess great admiratio

  • The google v China rundown (Ars Technica)
  • What would earth look like with Saturns rings?
  • Skyscrapers of the future
  • How nerds think about dance

    Lovatt says that he has entered uncharted territory with his research. “There are many people who work with things like dance therapy, but there is currently no one who is studying the psychological aspects of dancing using an experimental approach,” he says.

  • The death of silence

    In 1983 he found 21 places in Washington state with noise-free intervals of 15 minutes or more. By 2007 there were three.

  • Laser stabilized fusion: So we’ve got a black hole generator in Europe and a miniature sun at Lawrence-Livermore. Sweet!



  • Sociology via Google Autocomplete: What men and women worry about.
  • How to optimize your online dating profile pic: The 4 Big Myths of Profile Pictures (OkCupid)
  • Relationship advice for men, from women. (Infographic)
  • How to write an inflammatory blog post
  • How to report the news
  • If Olbermann can jump from ESPN to MSNBC, surely Obama can make the leap to the play-by-play booth.
  • This kid dances better than you.


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